What is GameBlast and why you should support it
We caught up with SpecialEffect ahead of the next big event!
Enjoy gaming and raising money for charity? Well, you might want to put your skills to good use by raising vital funds for a special UK-based charity.
Since 2007, SpecialEffect has dedicated its services to helping physically disabled people, specifically children, play video games - meaning no one misses out on the enjoyment of playing the latest releases, regardless of their physical abilities. There are a number of events that take place each year to help raise money for SpecialEffect, including the action-packed Chicken For Charity in which Fanatical took part last year.
The latest event on the calendar is GameBlast21, the UK’s biggest annual charity gaming marathon weekend in aid of the gamer specific charity.
Ahead of the big event, we caught up with SpecialEffect's Communications Coordinator Mark Saville to find out more about GameBlast's origins, fund-raising during a pandemic and exciting events in the near future.
Image credit: SpecialEffect
Firstly, for those who are new to the event - what is GameBlast, and what can people expect to see during GameBlast21?
MS: "It’s the best excuse to game ever!
"Since 2014 we've invited gamers, gaming communities and the gaming industry to come together during the GameBlast weekend at the end of February to do what they love best and raise money to support our work. Sponsored streams, cake bakes, board games, speed runs and, in non-lockdown times, full-on company events (Jagex put on a firewalk as part of their GameBlasting one year)… you name it, if it’s at all game-related, there’s probably somebody somewhere thinking of getting sponsored to do it over the GameBlast weekend."
How/when did the idea for GameBlast come about?
MS: "A couple of charities were already holding sponsored streaming events before we started so we weren’t the first, but for us it’s a natural fit: an annual gaming fund-raising weekend as a focus for individuals, gaming communities, esports teams and industry companies to play games for us with the aim of helping people with physical disabilities to be able to enjoy gaming.
"Since the very first GameBlast, which raised over £70k, the worldwide enthusiasm for the event has been both amazing and humbling. I remember sitting looking at the total for that first weekend with my jaw dropped open in surprise and gratitude, and it’s been the same every year since."
Image credit: SpecialEffect
How important is an event like GameBlast for SpecialEffect?
MS: "Absolutely massive. We wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the generosity and drive of gamers like yourselves who say 'Yeah, we really get what you do, how can I help?'.
"There’s a fantastic community feel about GameBlast and we’re so grateful to every single person who takes part. This year we have over 300 sign-ups including big company teams pulling out all the virtual stops despite the pandemic, right through to people like Joe, a gamer with muscular dystrophy that we’ve helped, who’s doing a 24-hour marathon.
"It’s possible that the total donations over the seven years might top £1 million this year which is astonishing: that kind of money has made so, so much difference to the people we help. It’s given them unparalleled opportunities to participate as equals in competitive gaming environments and social communities, resulting in greater independence, self-esteem, confidence, achievement, an opportunity to demonstrate to others the best of themselves… the list goes on. It’s way beyond simply having fun."
Has the pandemic caused any disruptions to SpecialEffect’s day-to-day efforts, and has hosting digital events like GameBlast helped more during these times?
MS: "Our specialist assessment team has been unable to carry out face-to-face visits to gamers with disabilities during the pandemic, but they’ve transitioned really successfully into remote assessments. We’re still helping just as many people that way, and we take what we learn from the challenges of creating bespoke adapted gaming setups and make that knowledge freely available worldwide via online support and helpful resources like https://gameaccess.info
"We’ve also launched an updated version of EyeMine, our free software that enables Minecraft to be played just be moving your eyes and Eye Gaze Games, a suite of browser-based games optimised for eye control. We’re also continuing our work with game developers to help make their games more accessible.
"It’s been a challenge, but it’s been business as usual thanks to our amazing supporters."
GameBlast is going to be ‘a blast’, but what other fun events can we expect this year to help raise funds for SpecialEffect?
MS: "A big thank you to the many, many people who’ve taken on imaginative virtual events over the last few months including pub quizzes, coast-to-coast walks and sports talks - talking of which, don’t miss a fantastic rugby stand-off between Chris Ashton and Jamie Heaslip on March 17th - and if all goes well we’ll be able to restart all kinds of memorable fundraising events soon, including our legendary five-a-side tournaments.
"We’re always super-proud of the runners in the SpecialEffect London 10k team, and at the moment that’s going ahead as both a physical and a virtual event on July 25th, and it looks like we’ll be back on track for the Twin Town banger challenge in 2022!
"Then in October there’s the fabulous One Special Day, when we invite the games industry to donate a day’s revenue in support of our work. We’re hoping to post a bunch of updates at https://www.specialeffect.org.uk/events very soon."
Fanatical @ GameBlast21
Fanatical is proud to announce that it will also be one of the team's helping to raise funds for SpecialEffect during GameBlast21. Our dedicated Stream Team will be playing some great PC games over the weekend - and each streamer will be giving away some awesome prizes during their streams too!
YOU CAN DONATE TO THE FANATICAL GAMEBLAST FUND-RAISING PAGE HERE
February 26th: Destiny 2 9pm GMT.
February 27th: 10pm to 12am GMT Sims 4.